Manchester United v Newcastle preview: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba return
Last Updated: 18/11/17 5:28pm
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in contention to play for Manchester United at home to Newcastle on Saturday evening, after successfully overcoming a cruciate knee ligament injury.
The 36-year-old Swede suffered the injury during United's Europa League quarter-final tie against Anderlecht in April, and was released from his contract at the end of last season before re-signing on a new one-year deal in August.
Ibrahimovic's return is not the only good news for Jose Mourinho as Paul Pogba is set to return following a 12-week lay-off with a hamstring injury.
Newcastle approach the game (kick-off 5.30pm) in indifferent form having suffered consecutive 1-0 defeats to Burnley and Bournemouth in the Premier League, and have picked up just one win in their last six league matches.
In his pre-match press conference, Rafa Benitez played down any rift with Mourinho, saying: "We are playing against Manchester United. It is not important who the managers are. He (Mourinho) is a good manager who has won a lot. I'm more concerned about [Romelu] Lukaku, [Juan] Mata and [Marcus] Rashford."
Ibrahimovic and Pogba are not the only long-term absentees returning to the fold for Manchester United this weekend, as defender Marcos Rojo is also available for selection having recovered from a knee injury.
In his pre-match press conference on Friday, Mourinho said of the trio: "All three selected for the match.
"With Paul, you can see - and now I can speak because he's back and I didn't like to speak when he was injured - Manchester United this season before the injury and after the injury there are qualities in our football.
"Zlatan, last season, we played with him every minute almost until he was injured - this season we learned how to play without him.
"We've played in a different way but he's a very important player for us and of course welcomed back."
One player who is unlikely to feature for the hosts is Phil Jones as he suffered a thigh injury while on international duty with England, while Michael Carrick is also a doubt with a calf strain.
Benitez, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon his captain Jamaal Lascelles (ankle), as well as Christian Atsu (thigh), Mikel Merino (back) and Paul Dummett (hamstring).
Manchester United have won 22 and lost just one of their last 32 league games against Newcastle United at Old Trafford (W22 D9 L1) - 0-1 in December 2013 courtesy of a Yohan Cabaye goal.
Newcastle United have lost 25 times against Manchester United in the Premier League; only versus Arsenal have they lost as many games in the competition.
- Indeed, the Magpies have lost 84 matches in all competitions against the Red Devils, more than versus any other side in their history.
- At Old Trafford, Man Utd are unbeaten in 22 Premier League games (W12 D10 L0), winning the last six in a row without conceding. They last won seven consecutive home league games without shipping a single goal back in March 2010.
- Rafa Benitez has lost five times against Jose Mourinho in the Premier League - only versus Alex Ferguson (8) has he suffered more defeats in the competition (also 5 vs Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp).
- Benitez could become the first manager in Premier League history to win at Old Trafford with three different away clubs, having won there with Chelsea and Liverpool previously - only Martin O'Neill (with Leicester and Aston Villa) has also won there with two different clubs.
Paul Merson's prediction
It is a must-win game for United as if I get my earlier results right, Man City will be clear and then they will need to win. Man Utd have good fixtures coming up, but it will be a difficult game.
United are not far away, if I am being honest… I know they went to Liverpool and Chelsea and did not score. I think the plan was to beat the lesser teams and do not get beat by the big teams, but getting beat by Huddersfield has put them behind the eight ball and so they have to win.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (Sky Bet odds 4/1)
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